Choosing the right tent for your hiking needs is the difference between a successful hike and a failure. With most articles, photographs and videos of hiking focused on the daytime aspects, it is easy to forget about the sleeping part. Most hikers spend at least 6 hours a night sleeping. That is a huge amount of time spent inside the tent. I will therefore detail which are the best backpacking tents for 2018.
Having a good night’s rest is the foundation for a good day of hiking. This is the time when your body can recover, your muscles will heal, blisters will scab over, even your immune system will strengthen. Investing in a tent that can facilitate a safe area to rest for the night is just as important as finding the perfect view.
As with all outdoor gear, there are a plethora of options for all styles of hiking. Are you more of a weekend warrior or do you prefer to spend weeks at a time living in your tent? How many people are you sharing the shelter with?
Ask yourself the situations in which you will be using a tent and then purchase the correct model for your needs.
- 1 Overnight Camping Tents
- 2 Backpacking Tents
- 3 Ultralight Backpacking Tents
Overnight Camping Tents
These tents are built for comfort. If road trips and short day hikes are your favorite ways to enjoy the outdoors, this is the style of tent for you. Large in size and built out of durable materials, a shelter of this magnitude can offer an excellent night’s sleep in any campground of choice.
What to look for in overnight camping tents
- The tent chosen should be large enough to sleep everyone sharing the space for the night. If you have a partner or a family, make sure the footprint is large enough for everyone. The height of the tent can also prove to be important.
- Vestibule space. The vestibule of a tent is an additional space protected by the rainfly. Seperate from the interior, it does not have a bugnet. The vestibule is commonly used to store shoes and extra gear away from the elements. On overnight trips, having a large vestibule will make it that much easier to keep gear dry during rainstorms.
- How waterproof you decide your shelter should be is ultimately up to you, but I strongly recommend investing in a waterproof design. If the rain fly does not extend completely to the ground, you could be in for a wet night. Take a good hard look at the materials used in the construction. Make sure the nylon can handle the heaviest of deluges.
Eureka Timberline SQ Outfitter 4 Tent
Strong enough to survive all 4 seasons and large enough to sleep 4 people, the Eureka Timberline SQ Outfitter 4 is perfect for hikers who demand comfort and safety. Heavy duty nylon makes up the floor and the rain fly, promising a dry night in any weather. The seams are factory sealed and this shelter is ready for punishment upon delivery.
6 aluminum poles are used to give it the iconic A-frame shape. It sheds water and snow and has enough anchor points to be tied down securely when faced with high winds. The double wall design comes with a bug net interior and plenty of ventilation options. The rain fly can be used as a vestibule and if you need more space, additional vestibules can be purchased and added to the tent.
4 feet 9 inches at the peak, multiple people can sit up straight, change clothes, and read books. Used by boy scout troops and professional outfitters, this bombproof design can hold up to the stresses demanded by the outdoor lifestyle.
Sleeping capacity: 4
Floor size: 8 ft 7 in x 7 ft 1 in
Interior peak height: 4 ft 9 in
Pack size: 7 in x 25 in
Minimum weight: 9 lbs 14 oz
Kelty Grand Mesa 4 Tent
Kelty is known for making affordable tents that hold up to the rigors of backpacking. The Grand Mesa 4 is a large, dome shaped tent, perfect for families or couples who want their space – there is also a 2 person model available.
With a rainfly that covers the frame completely, its snug design promises a restful night in any conditions. Aluminum poles make for a lightweight and sturdy skeleton. Easy to assemble clips allows for quick and easy setup while the bug proof interior protects from the smallest of insects. The separate rainfly stops rain from penetrating and creates enough ventilation to keep 4 people’s perspiration from dripping back into the tent.
Rugged, yet small enough to fit easily in a car or a large backpack, this tent will not break the bank. Feel confident in any camping location and sleep deeply inside the Kelty Grand Mesa 4.
Sleeping capacity: 4
Floor size: 8 ft 1 in x 6 ft x 6 in
Interior peak height: 4 ft 6 in
Pack size: 13 in x 15 in
Minimum weight: 7 lbs 7 oz
Designed to minimize weight and maximize space, backpacking tents are designed for on the go versatility. Smaller than most tents, these can fit snugly inside a pack and be carried for long distances. The materials used are lightweight, the poles are minimal, and even the stakes are made from materials that won’t weigh you down.
What to look for in backpacking tents
- More important than comfort is weight. If hiking 20+ mile days for weeks at a time is in your future, your shelter needs to be light enough for the trip. A general guideline for choosing a backpacking tent is keeping the shelter around 2lbs in weight.
- If you are going to carry a tent into the heart of the wilderness, it had better be waterproof. When it comes to backpacking tents, many manufacturers do not seam seal tents at the factory. The process of waterproofing the seams is simple enough, just don’t forget to do it before your next hike.
- The smaller and lighter your tent becomes, the higher the price becomes. It is easy to get caught up in the gear craze but that doesn’t mean your wallet can keep up. Weigh the pros and cons of that extra ounce to the amount of dollars it’s going to cost.
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL Tent
Double walled and free standing, the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL tent is perfect for weight conscious backpackers who appreciate protection and a fast setup. Made from ultralight nylon and boasting a bugproof interior, this tent provides protection for even the most hardcore hiker.
Available in both a 1 person and 2 person size, many thru-hikers prefer the 2-person because of the extra room it affords. The sub 2lb weight of this tent is just about as light as free-standing tents can get. What sets Big Agnes apart from other backpacking tents is that it includes poles and stakes in the overall weight
Lightweight, easy to pack down, and easy to carry, this is a great option for those people who don’t want to worry in the wilderness. Take this tent on your next vacation, use it on a road trip, or carry it for a week on the trail. It can do it all.
Sleeping capacity: 1 (2 person option is available)
Floor size: 7 ft 1 in x 3 ft x 2 in
Interior peak height: 3 ft 2 in
Pack size: 3.9 in x 15 in
Minimum weight: 1 lbs 11 oz
Nemo Hornet Ultralight Backpacking Tent
Lightweight, sturdy, and sized to fit into the lightest packs. The Nemo Hornet Ultralight Backpacking tent has been designed to be the most comfortable lightweight shelter on the market. Using only a single pole for setup, the aluminum skeleton is optimized to shed the weight, as well as the wind. Nearly free standing, feel confident setting up on rocky surfaces or on the top of a mountain.
Bug proof and double walled, the rainfly will keep you dry no matter the weather. Where it stands apart from the Big Agnes design is the side door entry. If crawling into your tent and then having to turn around to sleep is too much effort, try this design instead.
Aluminum stakes and minimalistic anchor points keeps the weight to a minimum. The bathtub floor minimizes the amount of seams and reduces leaks. This model comes with an innovative pack system, allowing for separate compression of the tent body, making it that much easier to pack. Built to go as far as you can walk, The Nemo Hornet packs a lot of features into a small package.
Sleeping capacity: 1 (2 person option is available)
Floor size: 87 in x 40 in x 31 in
Interior peak height: 3 ft 3 in
Pack size: 4in x 19 in
Minimum weight: 1 lbs 11 oz
Ultralight Backpacking Tents
If having a tent that uses poles sounds like too much weight, an ultralight tent could be in your future. These shelters are created using space age materials and forego the usual comforts like free-standing ability. Many models require the use of trekking poles.
The most ultralight of designs are single-walled. This means the rainfly doubles as the body of the tent. This is done to save weight and reduce redundancies. The drawback to a single wall design is perspiration given off during the act of sleeping. There are examples of water condensing on the interior, and at times, the amount of liquid inside the tent is akin to a rainstorm.
To combat the inadequacies of single walled designs, manufacturers increase the amount of airflow by utilizing large mesh panels. It is also best practice to bring a sponge or a towel to dry off the interior every morning.
Weighing as little as possible and easy to pack down tightly, these models are built for the most serious of backpackers. Be warned, because of their utility, the prices of ultralight tents tend to be higher than most other designs.
What to Look for in Ultralight Backpacking Tents
- The most important aspect when choosing an ultralight tent, look for models that weigh in around the 1lb mark. If you are going to spend the kind of money required for one of these models, be sure it actually is ultralight.
- Materials used. Ultralight tents generally incorporate materials more expensive and less common than nylon. Do your own research surrounding the materials used and be sure you can trust it on your next hike.
- Ultralight tents are more susceptible to rips and tears than heavier tents made from more durable nylon materials. Thinner fabrics and a reduction in the stitching help to keep weight low but at the cost of creating a more fragile structure. When purchasing a tent, understand the durability factor and compare it against the importance of the weight.
Tarp Tent ProTrail
Single walled and built from durable materials, the Tarptent ProTrail is the brand’s most popular shelter. Sleeping one person comfortably, this tent is designed for thru-hikers and speed. Using trekking poles as the support system, the over all weight is kept to a minimum and the tent can easily fit inside any ultralight backpack on the market.
To combat the single-walled aeration flaws, the tent boasts a large, bug net reinforced, bottom panel, that wraps around the entire tent body. Enjoy a large vestibule and a bathtub floor. Trail tested by thousands of hikers, the waterproofness of this tent has been proven over and over again.
An excellent purchase for those hikers attempting a thru-hike this year. An ultralight tent, built from rugged materials, and with a price point below $250, it is no wonder why TarpTent has become a favorite with hikers.
Sleeping capacity: 1
Floor size: 42 in x 84 in
Interior peak height: 3 ft 7 in
Pack size: 4in x 12 in
Minimum weight: 1 lbs 10 oz (stakes included in base weight)
Zpacks Solplex Tent
No more messing around, you have decided that it is time to own the pinnacle of ultralight shelter technology. If price is not part of your decision making process, Zpacks has created the Solplex Tent specifically for you.
Made from Dyneema Composite Fabric, this space age material is ultralight, tear resistant, and waterproof. Any seams that do exist are sealed during the manufacturing process, making a trusty and dependable tent. This shelter requires trekking poles, or carbon fiber poles that can be purchased separately.
Zpacks offers a range of choices when picking the thickness and opacity of materials used to construct your tent. Check out their website and start building the ultimate shelter for your needs.
Sleeping capacity: 1
Floor size: 7ft 6 in x 2 ft 6 in
Interior peak height: 2 ft 7 in
Pack size: 7in x 13 in
Minimum weight: 15.5 oz (stakes not included in base weight)